The Joy of Food- Why I Cherish My Family Roots So Much, an Ode to “Popo”
I celebrated my birthday earlier this week.
My very loving husband gifted me a very enviable Kitchen Aid – the ultimate baking tool.
As much in love as I am with my new benchtop companion (which, I should mention, is a retro fire-engine red!!), I couldn’t help thinking about what my grandmother would have said if she ever laid her eyes on one, let alone the price-tag that it came with.
My grandma (Dad’s mom) was (and still remains) the matriarch of her home and kitchen. She was in charge of all the family meals. The most important meal that we gathered for weekly was Sunday lunch, and she had the bases covered week in a week out. It was no easy feat. My Dad is one of five children and there are a total of 15 grandkids. That’s a whole lot of mouths to feed. And she fed them every week with a home-cooked banquet every single time.
When I shared about my new birthday gift on social media, my sister and I engaged in some friendly banter about whether I would be attempting to make some of my grandma’s (known to us as “Popo”) old favourites. In particular, she used to make giant “fried meatballs”, which she stored in giant Tupperware containers in select places around her home just in case anyone was hungry. That was quintessentially Popo.
I have never experienced any embarrassment or shame about my family’s roots and heritage. I understand this exists – like how it is portrayed in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I understand how big, loud family meals can look like chaos. There are lots of jokes to be told about the sometimes weird and wonderful traditions that seem to always revolve around food.
I absolutely love re-telling the stories about how Popo used to cook for us, as well as how she ran her kitchen and her home. Sadly, she is unable to do the same now because she gets too tired – and I know that as much as everyone else in the family tries to keep the tradition of Sunday lunch alive, it will never be quite the same without Popo’s food. I love remembering about how proud she was of her cooking and how she would jokingly blame it on my grandpa in case anything ever did go wrong in her kitchen – ha ha ha!
Our family lessons were simple:
Make time to spend time with family – this becomes a familiar ritual. A meal is a wonderful thing to come together for.
A home with an abundance of food is a happy home – Popo always made sure that when we gathered together, that we always had plenty of food. Even now that we have all grown up, my mom still also does the same when we are at her place. Food is clearly an expression of love and abundance is a symbol of comfort and that everything is great at home.
Pour emotion into the preparation process – Getting food on the table is not just about the act of eating for the sake of it, or cooking because you have to. In our family, this involved shopping, planning, cooking and sharing. Food that is prepared with time and love always tastes better – would you agree?
On that note, this blog post is a memory of my childhood and the role that food played, and still plays, in my family. Cooking meant cooking from absolute scratch and from the heart. Popo would even go the extra mile and cook a special dish if someone was feeling unwell. The whole process took the whole weekend – Saturday was spent shopping for all of the ingredients needed for the day, and then she would spend the rest of the time preparing – this was her language of love. A family meal in Popo’s house meant loud conversations over the dining table and sharing the meal as an entire unit. Abundant food was a symbol of happiness in our home. This is a cheer to Popo, our Matriarch who was the glue to hold us all together – through the joy of food.